DESPITE INCREASES in the production of synthetic drugs, natural plant drug materials are still economically significant in the united States, and large quantities are harvested in the southern Appalachian region each year for medicinal purposes. A 1962 survey of 328,599,000 new prescriptions written in the U. S. showed that 25 percent were for drugs from natural plant products. However, during the past 30 to 50 years, fewer and fewer people have been harvesting wild lants in Appalachia, which is the principal American source, mainly because of families emigrating to more prosperous areas. Between 1950 and 1960, the southern Appalachian region lost through emigration more than a million people, nearly a fifth of the population. Increases in local blue-collar employment opportunities, a growing reluctance to work in the fields and forests, scarcity of some plants because of over-collecting, and land-use changes have also reduced the natural plant harvests for drug materials.
To locate, collect, and prepare plants for market is time-consuming work. Some collectors do not know all the useful plant species and the best markets for them. This manual was prepared to help collectors identify, collect, and handle plants, plant parts, and pollen.
Not all the plants listed are marketable at all times; so the collector would do well to write to one of the collecting houses listed (table 1) for prices and information about market demand. Buyers of such material are helpful in providing other useful information on collecting.
Guide To Edible Plants